They Called Us Enemy

June 8, 2021 - Graphic Novel, Reviews
Author: George Takei
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
They Called Us Enemy

George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy investigates the violation of Japanese Americans’ rights during WWII through Executive Order 9066. Within the first 25 pages, the stage is set: Pearl Harbor occurs, the order has been passed, and the government has begun their work. This fast pacing helps the reader understand how fast everything has changed, and how quickly the Japanese Americans lost nearly everything. After the initial burst of brutality and horror is covered, the book takes a dramatic shift, viewing the scenarios of internment and relocation through the eyes of a child. Takei describes how he remembers the camp through short sweet stories, only to have them supplemented with the reality faced by his parents. By having both of these viewpoints it allows the reader to understand how these internment camps affected entire families in a simple way. It also tackles the difficult scenarios in a simple manner, in a way that a child may see it. Utilizing fairly simple diction, it makes the information very accessible to audiences of all ages. The drawings are also not overly violent, with the exception of a few covering the bombings of Japan. As the novel progresses, the tone shifts once again to serious, as it covers more grave circumstances such as the removal of citizenship of Japanese Americans and suggests Takei’s aging. I felt by viewing the circumstances through the lenses of children and adults in short stories and events made the whole issue of Japanese internment more clear. I, as a reader, felt very connected to the Takei family, and felt the novel well developed their relationship as a family, and as a part of the Japanese community during a trying time in United States history.
—Kenna Shanahan, CMRD101 Fall 2020